Yes, Unless

One of my jobs as the parent of a small child is to pay attention to the things Dylan wants to do and declare whether or not he gets to do them.

YES or NO, I decree.

This is a great and heady power.

It would be so easy to default to NO. Chances are, whatever he wants to do will make a mess, risk injury, or bore me to tears.

A casual NO, a default NO, a careless NO has an effect on Dylan. NO is restrictive, controlling, closing off, and NO so easily becomes no no no no no no no no no.

I try to push for YES. I push past my own boundaries, shallow preferences, and reflexive rejection.

YES you can make messes that take me mere seconds to clean but that build a sense of creativity and exploration that will last you a lifetime.

YES you can take some physical risks, because I’ll be here to catch you or to comfort you if I don’t, and that has value, too, while turning away from the risk of life isn’t valuable at all.

YES, I will help you with things that bore me, annoy me, and “waste my time”, because holy shit this time is so short, so valuable, and too amazing to fill it with NO.

If I’m going to say NO, I’m going to have a damn good reason.

Somewhere along the way, I picked up the phrase, “Yes, unless…” The idea is that the answer is always yes, unless I can come up with and state a good reason why not. YES is my default.

That’s the ideal, anyway.

In reality it probably sounds more like my default is, “No. Oh. Well…. I guess so.” It’s just so easy to jump in with a NO, that I still say it a lot.

I catch myself pretty quickly, though, and so we move farther into a life of YES.

(Here’s Dylan doing one of those messy, annoying things. This is the day he discovered the shelf with the flour on it.)